Do you suffer from wiccaphobia or occasionally sarmassophobia? Well the good news is you shouldn’t be affected very often or for long. The bad news is, you are about to have an attack of at least one of them.
Halloween is near and if its witches that spook you, then you suffer from wiccaphobia but if it’s the whole Halloween thing, then you might have an attack of sarmassophobia.
But, don’t blame America for creating the spooky costumed event. Far from it, whilst it was the birth of Christianity that led to the fixed date of Halloween, our Celtic ancestors were doing that and a whole lot more.
Back in the 400’s BC, the festival of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, was celebrated on 1 November. This day marked the end of summer and the beginning of the dark and cold days of winter.
The Celts held many superstitions and fears of the spirit world and they believed that on the night of 31 October, the barriers between the two worlds dissolved, allowing spirits into the natural world. To avoid being abducted and drawn back into the underworld, it was necessary to observe the yearly ritual.
The Druids would light huge fires to ward off the evil spirits. Sacrifices of crops or animals were offered and as the fires died away, the sanctified burning embers were distributed amongst the people to take home to light their own fires, ensuring continuing protection against any wayward spirits on their return journey to the other world.
There was also another side to this sombre and critical event – party time! There would have been costumes, masks and face painting and they would whoop it up into the small hours.
When the Romans arrived, they combined two of their own festivals; Feralia, when they commemorated the passing of the dead and Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees; with the existing Celt celebration.
However, with the dawn of Christianity, the pagan rituals were rebranded to harmonise with the new way of life.
By the 9th century, Pope Boniface 4th created All Saints’ Day on 1 November, from Middle English Allholowmess, or All Hallows’ Day, making the previous day All Hallows’ Eve. So the people were able to continue celebrating, but under the auspices of a church sanctioned festival.
Another favoured trend that is becoming increasingly popular is trick or treating. But contrary to popular belief, this is not an American import either.
Our pagan ancestors left a food known as soul cakes outside their homes for the lost souls roaming the earth, so they would not need to enter the house in search of food. This combined with the tricks that people would play on each other, evolved into the trick or treat campaign that we know today.
Scary pumpkin faces are a common sight around Halloween, whilst the pumpkin itself is an American import, the Jack o’lantern stems from a story of an Irish man by the name of Jack, who was so mean and miserly he was not allowed into Heaven. He played so many tricks on the devil that he was not allowed into Hell either. So he continues to wonder the earth with his lantern looking for a place to rest.
England still has a large number of pagans and druids and the people that follow this way of life see themselves as being closer to and more attuned with nature and the seasons.
The British Druid Order (BDO) is a shamanic animistic Druid group open to everyone or there is the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids that is an initiatory order open to any faith and who claim to be the largest Druid organisation in the world.
So it is little wonder with our pagan past remaining firmly locked in our current day that the ghosts, apparitions and spiritual goings on continue to spook even the bravest amongst us.
So hide your black cats, prepare your soul cake sweets and sit out the night of demons, banshees and mischievous spirits.
Alternatively, look for a slightly different sort of spirit, and have a jolly good heathen knees up!
The British Druid Order (BDO) www.druidry.co.uk.
The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids www.druidry.org.